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Something Just Like This

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Duck Newton considered himself a reasonable man, and so far in his life he hadn’t run across anyone who disagreed with him (except maybe Minerva, but he wasn’t sure she counted). Which meant that when he got in his car to drive over to one Indrid Cold’s campsite to ask him if maybe he could unplug one or two of his space heaters, he wasn’t expecting to be damn near kicked out of the rundown vehicle and given the cold shoulder by the aforementioned man.

“Indrid, come on man.” he called through the door, standing on his tiptoes in an attempt to peek through the window. He caught sight of a couple (hopefully) empty cartons of eggnog lying on their sides, but no Indrid.

“Go away!” came a muffled response a few moments later. Duck sighed and removed his hat, running his hands through his mussed hair. He thought that Indrid would understand that his situation was a fire waiting to happen, and would want to prevent that. Apparently not.

“It’s a fire hazard! I’m just trying to help!”

“I don’t need help!” Indrid yelled back, and Duck groaned in frustration.

“Fine! But don’t come crying to me when you get burnt to a crispy cryptid!” Duck placed his hat back on his head and walked (stomped) back to his truck. He backed out of the camping area a little more recklessly than necessary, and drove even more careful than usual on his way to the Lodge to make up for it. Aubrey greets him as he drives up, a gesture that warms his heart and melts some of the anger away. He’s still scowling though when he gets out of the truck, and Aubrey definitely notices.

“What’s bothering you Duck?” she asks, linking her arm with his and leading him into the Lodge.

“Oh, nothing really. Indrid’s just being difficult.” he says, taking a seat on the couch as she plops down on the armchair across from him. The lobby seems void of much activity for the moment, populated by only a few others. Dani lounges beside one of the windows, looking not much different than a cat basking in the sun, Jake Coolice talks to Barclay, bouncing on his heels while Barclay hums noncommittally, clearly not listening very closely to what the boy is saying, and finally, Agent Stern is hunched over a seemingly disorganized mess of papers a few feet away from the two of them. He appears incredibly focused on his work, which is why Duck startles pretty badly when he hears the man speak.

“Indrid?” he asks curiously, sitting up much straighter in his chair than he had been a few moments ago. Aubrey raises an eyebrow at him, clearly confused and annoyed by his sudden interruption.

“Uh, yeah.” Duck says, the same confusion coating his words. Stern laughs a little and runs a hand through his hair, a nervous smile creeping onto his face.

“Sorry to intrude, it’s just-well, Indrid Cold is a cryptid known to show himself in the West Virginia area.” he says, as though this is common knowledge (which, Duck supposes, it is, but only because of their line of work, and this stupid fed shouldn’t just assume things).

“You don’t really believe in all that nonsense, do you Agent Stern?” Audrey asks, disbelief coloring her tone. Duck envies her ability to lie at the drop of a hat, and decides his best course of action for the moment is to keep his mouth shut. No need to draw unnecessary suspicion towards their friendly neighborhood mothman.

“It’s kind of in my job description, Aubrey.” he replies, exasperated. It sounds as though the two of them have this conversation often, a thought that greatly amuses Duck.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever.” she says, waving her hand as if to dismiss him. Unfortunately, Stern doesn’t seem to get the hint.

“So, who is this Indrid you two know? Not a very common name, that.” he says, narrowing his eyes at Duck. He worries the agent has singled him out as the bad liar in their group, and feels his cheeks heat up at the unwanted attention. His mind races as he tries to come up with something that will take any and all suspicion off of Indrid.

“Uh, he’s uh, um. He’s-uh, he’s my, um.” he stutters, then perks up as a lightbulb goes off in his head. “My husband!”

Aubrey’s eyes widen, but she quickly gets it under control, though with the sunglasses she’s taken to wearing Duck’s sure Stern wouldn’t have noticed anyway. Barclay nearly trips and very narrowly avoids sending all the plates he’s holding crashing to the floor, his face barely containing his amusement at Duck’s terrible, terrible, terrible ability to lie.

“Oh! I wasn’t aware you were married Duck.” Stern says, surprise clear in his expression. “You don’t wear a ring.”

“Um, yeah, uh. Well, working in the forest and all, I uh, I worry about it getting dirty or, or lost or something you know?” to be fair, this is the most successful Duck thinks he’s ever been in telling a lie. “And I don’t talk about it much because, uh, you know. West Virginia and all that, small town. People can be…well, people can be real assholes you know.”

“Of course, my apologies for intruding on your personal life.” the agent says, at least

having the decency to look a little sheepish.

“Uh, don’t worry about it partner.” Duck worries that his words are still too stiff and awkward, but he guesses he can pin that on, apparently, having outed himself to a government official and practical stranger. Aubrey’s lips are pinched, an expression that to someone who didn’t know her as well may look like discomfort, or irritation, but to Duck signalled that she was moments away from bursting into laughter. He got to his feet and reached out to grab her wrist, tugging her up as well.

“Come on, I haven’t seen Dr. Harris Bonkers in a little while. How’s he doing?” he asked, desperate for an escape from the situation. She nodded, and stayed blessedly silent as she led him back to her room further in the Lodge. As soon as the door shut behind the two of them she nearly doubled over laughing, her hand clutching her stomach as she tried to calm herself.

“All right, all right, get ahold of yourself.” Duck says, crossing his arms over his chest and glaring at the younger girl. He doesn’t appreciate being mocked so severely, even if he does deserve it. Aubrey wheezes and holds up a finger in the universal sign for ‘just a moment’, and Duck rolls his eyes, impatiently waiting for her to calm the hell down.

“Sor-Sorry, it’s just-” she breaks off in another peal of laughter. “It’s just that like. You’re so bad at lying. Can I please be there when you have to explain to Indrid that you two are pretend married? Please?”

“I’m not telling Indrid.” Duck says through gritted teeth, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“You’re…not?” Audrey asks, little giggles still escaping her lips every so often. “How’s that going to work?”

“I just-I’m not going to tell him unless it’s absolutely necessary. Which, it shouldn’t be, because why would I bring my husband to the Lodge?” Aubrey nods along, seeming to agree.

“And you aren’t going to tell him either.” Duck points at her, a pointed glare taking over his face. She huffs and rolls her eyes, but Duck sees the disappointment hidden in her expression.

“Fine.” she agrees, holding out her pinky. The two of them pinky swear, and Duck lets out a sigh of relief.

“There. Now everything should be fine.”


 

Everything was not fine. Duck managed to go barely a month before the thing became an issue again. After a few too many nights of staying up late with the Pineguard working on the newest abomination, or attempting to track where the next one might show up, Stern started taking more of an interest in Duck’s life.

“So, does your husband mind you staying out so late?” he asks one night when Duck is finishing up his evening and gathering his things.

“What?” Duck says, confused for a moment before he remembers his tremendous and terrible lie. “Oh. Uh, no, he uh, he knows I help out around here after work a lot. Mama and Barclay need as much help as they can get, especially with Aubrey running around here now.” he laughs nervously and rubs the back of his neck, avoiding Agent Stern’s eyes.

“Pretty understanding husband you got there.” Stern says, eyes narrowing at the clearly nervous Duck.

“Ah, haha, yeah, he’s uh. He’s pretty great.” Duck gives Stern a thumbs up, then winces and lowers it back down. “Anyways, better get, uh, better get home. See you around partner.” As Duck makes his escape, he hears Aubrey’s raucous laughter echo out of Mama’s office, and he just knows she’s laughing at him.

 

Chapter Text

“You have got to get better at lying. How can you even be apart of the Pineguard and be this bad at it?” Ned says around a bite of a donut. He and Duck sit across from one another at the local donut shop, an empty seat waiting for Aubrey. They do this every so often, and Duck thinks it’s nice to catch up with the two of them outside of what can only be described as work. Well, he usually thinks it’s nice, but today not so much. Apparently word of Duck’s awful situation has made itself known to the one and only Ned Chicane, meaning that things are about to get a whole lot worse.

“Jesus Ned.” he groans, dropping his head into his head. “Can’t you just let me be?”

“Absolutely not! When Ned Chicane sees a friend in need, he is required to help them!” Ned says, loud and boisterous and drawing way too much attention to himself.

“All right, all right, just-keep it down.” Duck sighs and fiddles with his coffee mug. “Stern’s been asking me all kinds of questions lately, like how me and my husband are doing, and if my husband minds me spending so much time at the Lodge. I think he thinks I’m cheating on Indrid or something, which is-let me just say-the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever had to say.” Ned laughs and claps a hand down on Duck’s shoulder in what the shorter man assumes is supposed to be a comforting gesture.

“We talking about Duck’s sad, sad love life?” Audrey asks, sliding into her seat as though she’s been there the whole time. Duck looks heavenward and wishes just for a moment that some divine being would smite him right then and there.

No, and it’s not sad.” He says, taking a sip of his coffee and glaring at Aubrey. She just laughs, her wide grin splitting her face.

“I hate you.” Duck grumbles.

“You don’t. Stern was asking about Indrid again this morning. Said he’d like to meet this supposed superstar husband someday. I think he’s beginning to get suspicious.”

“You’re joking.”

“Scout’s honor.” She says, hand over her heart.

“Fuck. Why is he so-so goddamn-fuck!” and now Duck is drawing the unwanted attention. He ducks his head sheepishly after his outburst, cheeks flushed.

“Guess you’ll have to go explain the situation to Kepler’s own local Mothman.” Ned says. His voice and face appear solemn, but Duck sees the amusement dancing behind his eyes.

“Ah hell. I guess I do. How will this even work? Why would Indrid-why would my husband come to the Lodge with me? I go there right after work it doesn’t even-”

“We could throw a party!” Aubrey perks up instantly, a wild look in her eyes. “Jake’s birthday is coming up! It’d be perfect.

“I-all right, yeah, okay. Okay. Fuck. I’m gonna-ah shit I’m gonna have to go actually talk about this with Indrid huh? Ah beans, okay.” Duck closes his eyes and rubs his temples, hating the fact that this is his life.

“I can come with you if you’d like.” Aubrey says, that stupid, shit-eating grin still painted onto her face.

“No, no this is something I gotta do alone. Fuck.” he groans and slumps forward onto the table, very nearly knocking over his coffee.

“Things could be worse. Look on the brightside, at least you don’t actually like him.” Ned adds helpfully.

“Right. At least there’s that.” That’s the problem though, isn’t it? Duck groans as he thinks about pretending to be married to fucking Indrid Cold. It’s not that Duck is hopelessly gone on the man, he has a little more dignity than that, but it’s hard for him not to notice the man. His tall and lanky form, his white hair that looks unimaginably soft, not to mention the soothing cadence of his voice, all culminating into someone that’s, well, exactly his type. Okay, maybe Duck is a little gone on the man, but no one except him needs to know that.

“Unless you totally are, holy shit Duck!” Aubrey exclaims, shocking him out of his spiral.

“What? No. Totally not. Definitely not.” Duck says, but once again he fails to sound even slightly convincing.

“You’re in some deep doodoo.” Ned sagely says, shaking his head.

“Fuck.” Duck groans and runs a hand across his face. “Yeah, I am aren’t I? God, I’d rather take on a million Abominations than do this.”

“It’ll be all right Duck. Hey, maybe Indrid likes you too.” Aubrey’s hopeful grin coaxes a small smile out of him, despite the growing pit of anxiety swirling in his stomach.

“Yeah. Maybe.”


 

“You have to go inside eventually.” Aubrey says from her perch in the passenger seat. She pestered Duck relentlessly until he finally agreed to let her go, under the stipulation that she had to stay in the car. He didn’t want any more witnesses to this disaster than there had to be.

“You know he knows you’re here, right? I’m surprised that he hasn’t come out here already.”

“He’s mad at me.” That was another reason this whole thing could go haywire at the drop of a hat. Sure, this whole ridiculous situation was to help keep Indrid off of Agent Stern’s radar, but what if Indrid didn’t want the help? How would he explain that away? They wanted to keep as much suspicion off of all of them as possible. God, he really hoped this went well. He sucked in a deep breath, and finally opened the car door. Aubrey whooped, and Duck rolled his eyes, once again hating that this was his life. He made his way to Indrid’s door, expecting the door to swing open at any second. Knocking on the front door of the trailer caused something inside the ranger to twist with guilt. Indrid must be really mad at him, huh?

“If you’re here to talk about the heaters again, you can just leave.” Duck huffs out a laugh, shoving his hands deep into his pockets.

“As much as your fire hazard of a home bothers me, that’s not why I’m here.” The door creaks open a crack and Duck catches sight of the edge of Indrid’s red glasses.

“...oh.” the door slowly opens the rest of the way, revealing the too-thin man behind it. Indrid pushes his glasses up his nose and steps aside, letting Duck in.

“So, do you um. Do you know why I’m here?”

“I-” Indrid rubs the back of his neck sheepishly. “Yes, but please, tell me anyway.”

“Right. So, I’m a bad liar.” Indrid snorts. “Yeah, you know this, but uh. I made a mistake? I was talking about you in front of Agent Stern and...well he asked about you and I wanted to keep suspicion away from you?”

“So you said I’m your-”

“My husband, yeah. I’m sorry? But uh, he’s starting to get suspicious now, and Aubrey thought it would be a good idea to throw Jake a birthday party and-well, I guess I was wondering if you would want to come with me? Help keep up the ruse, so to speak?” By the end of his explanation, Duck’s face is a brilliant shade of red.

“Sure.” Indrid says, padding into the “kitchen” of his trailer and pouring himself a glass of eggnog.

“What? Just like that?” Duck asks, a little incredulous. Indrid shrugs, wiping away his nog mustache after taking a sip.

“Yeah. I mean, really it’s the best course of action for me. I see multiple futures where I don’t go and Stern shows up at my home, but if I go with you then the probability of that goes way down.” The way he says it makes it seem so simple, and Duck feels a bit silly for being so twisted up about it.

“Huh. I...I’m going to be honest, I didn’t think it was going to be this easy.”

“Why not?” Indrid perches on his couch, legs tucked up so that his knees brush against his chin, glass cradled in his hands. He looks cute, a thought that Duck very much tries to ignore.

“I don’t know. I guess I thought you’d laugh at me, or get upset or something.”

“I will admit, the situation is a little silly. I’m sure there are other lies you could have told to get out of the situation. That aside, it was…sweet, that you thought to protect me from Agent Stern. I very much appreciate it, and I’ve never been one to look a gift horse in the mouth.” Indrid talks with his hands a lot, and Duck watches him, entranced by his near-elegant movements.

“Yeah, I guess that tracks.” Duck chuckles a bit nervously.

“Thank you, Duck. Truly. Also, if you don’t want Aubrey barging in here in approximately..mm, 30 seconds, you should go ahead and leave. I’ll call you later for the details of the party.” Indrid waves Duck away, and despite feeling rushed and a bit off balance at the hurried exit, he takes his leave, waving goodbye to the man as he steps out the door. Aubrey halts in her tracks halfway between the truck and the Winnebago, surprise on her face.

“I was coming to make sure Indrid hadn’t killed you.” she teases, skipping alongside Duck as they walk back the short distance to the car.

“Ha ha, you’re hilarious. Get back in the truck dumbass.” Duck ruffles her hair with a fond smile.

“So, how’d it go?” she asks as soon as Duck starts the car and begins to back out of the campground.

“It went…surprisingly well, actually.” Duck laughs, still a bit incredulous about the whole situation.

“Really?”

“Yeah. I explained the whole thing and he just said ‘sure’. Like it was nothing.”

“Huh. I’m gonna admit, that’s a little disappointing.” Aubrey grins and Duck rolls his eyes, wondering briefly why she enjoys his misery so much. The two chat idly for the rest of the short drive to Amnesty Lodge, and when they get there Aubrey hops out quickly.

“See you around Duck!” she calls as she heads into the building, waving over her shoulder. Duck smiles and waves back, waiting until she’s safely inside the Lodge before backing out and heading home.

Chapter Text

Someone knocked on Duck’s door at 10:30 that night. He startled from his position on the couch, eyes narrowing in suspicion. Sure, it was probably just Leo stopping by to check on him, or someone who got his mail instead of theirs, but what if it was something worse? He creeped into the kitchen and grabbed Beacon, just in case, before making his way back to the door.

“Hello Duck Newton, I hope you know that I hate that dusty cabinet very much, and would like to be kept-”

“Shut up for a second Beacon.” he hissed, opening up the door a crack and peeking out. The surprise he felt when he met Indrid’s wide, red glasses nearly made him drop the sword.

“Oh. Hey Indrid. What… I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude, but what are you doing here?” Duck stepped back, letting the man into his apartment.

“Oh great, company.” Beacon sneered, and Duck rolled his eyes before tucking him back away in the cabinet, ignoring the sword’s protests. Indrid chuckled a little, watching the exchange before speaking up.

“I know I said I’d call, but I felt this was a discussion I’d rather have in person.” he explains, fidgeting a little. His coat makes him look nearly twice his size, and the scarf around his neck covers his mouth, muffling his words. He looks…soft, and cuddly, and Duck’s arms itch to wrap around him and keep him warm.

“Okay. Talk about what, exactly?”

“How we’re going to pull this off. We can’t just show up and act like friends Duck, that would be preposterous.” Indrid scoffs, and Duck feels a bit silly.

“Oh, right, of course. Uh, do you want to sit?” he gestures to the couch and Indrid nods. The two of them get comfortable on opposite sides of it, the blanket previously being used by Duck now commandeered by Indrid.

“So, how did we meet?” Indrid starts.

“You called me-do you not remember?” Indrid rolls his eyes.

“No, Duck, how did we meet if Stern asks. We can’t tell him I predicted the future and called you to prevent a terrible accident.”

“Oh. Right. Uh…“ Duck will be the first to admit, he feels incredibly out of his depth. “Maybe I had to write you up for illegally camping in the forest? I’m pretty sure that would have happened anyways if you hadn’t called me. You haven’t paid like, ever.”

“Why should I? Anyways, yes, that works. You came to apprehend me, but were just so taken aback by my astounding beauty that you asked me out instead.” Indrid grins, and Duck can’t help the laugh that tumbles out of him.

“I don’t-I think I’m offended that you think I’d be so bad at my job.”

“It was your idea.”

“Fair enough. So, that’s how we met. Uh, what next?”

“How long have we been together. It’s like you’ve never dated anyone Duck, don’t you remember all the stupid, arbitrary questions people ask? They’re relentless.”

“Of course I’ve dated people.” Duck says defensively, failing to mention that the last person he “dated” was Juno Devine, and they went on two uneventful and dissatisfying dates before deciding they worked better as friends. “ You’ve dated people?”

“Yes Duck, as hard as it is to believe. I was never very good at it though.”

“Yeah, you and me both buddy.” Duck smiles at him, earning him a soft chuckle in return. “Uh, anyways, we’re supposed to be married so…maybe like, five years? Not too long, but not too short you know.”

“Good, good. Married for…what do you think, two or three years?”

“I say two.” They continue to work through things like that, slowly building up a convincing enough lie that, hopefully, will be able to fool Agent Stern.

“Of course, I’ll do most of the talking. You can’t lie to save your life, literally.” Duck would protest, but he knows it’s true. “And we’ll need to…well, act like a couple. I don’t mind much, but is there anything you would rather me not do?”

“Oh.” Duck’s cheeks flush. He hadn’t even thought about this part. “Uh, no, no I should be…I should be good for whatever.”

“You sure? I don’t want anything to happen you aren’t comfortable with Duck.” Indrid scoots a little closer, and Duck’s breath catches in his throat as their hands brush.

“Don’t worry about it Indrid. I’m a grown up, and physical affection has never exactly been a hardship I’ve had to endure.” Much the opposite actually. Duck would never admit it, but he often craves another person’s touch, the feeling of someone else in his arms or them in his. Just the other day, Ned gave him a hug and he nearly started crying.

“All right, so long as you’re sure. If at any time you get uncomfortable though, please, let me know okay?”

“Of course Indrid, and the same goes for you.” Duck thinks the other man is scooting even closer, but he’s not sure. He’s pretty certain their thighs weren’t touching a second ago, but Indrid did just move over on the couch, so maybe Duck just wasn’t paying attention.

“Thank you.” Indrid smiles, and when Duck looks back up at him their faces are much, much closer than they were a moment before.

“Do you think…I mean, I was just wondering, will we have to…well, kiss?” he asks, voice a little softer. Duck’s heart hammers in his chest and he swallows, eyes flickering down to Indrid’s lips, mere inches from his own.

“I mean…maybe? I’m not…I don’t know.” he answers, cursing himself for sounding so flustered.

“We should probably practice before, right? So it isn’t obvious that it’s our first kiss.” the way Indrid says it makes it sound like the most logical thing in the world, and all Duck can do is nod in agreement before leaning forward and meeting the other man’s lips with his own. Indrid’s lips curve up against Duck’s clearly amused, but he can’t bring himself to care because his hand is coming up to cup the back of Duck’s head and the angle is perfect and-

“Right then.” Indrid says, clearing his throat and pulling away, leaving Duck feeling as though he’s been stranded at sea. He’s still swimming in the emotions of a moment before, the ghost of Indrid’s lips still present on his own. “That should do it then. I’m glad we got that all sorted out.”

“Uh. Yeah. Yeah, uh, me too.” Duck shakes his head in an attempt to clear it.

“So, when is this party then? I assume it’s at the Lodge.” Indrid asks, getting to his feet and folding up the blanket.

“It’s January 20th. You can meet me here at 5:00 if you want, or I can pick you up?”

“I’ll come here.” Indrid decides, making his way to the door. “See you then Duck Newton.” he says, waving before disappearing from sight, leaving Duck still reeling from everything that happened.

Chapter Text

True to his word, the next time Duck sees Indrid is when he shows up at his front door the night of the 20th, almost a week after their kiss. Duck takes a steadying breath before opening the door, but even still his cheeks are splotchy and red before he even sees the man.

“Oh.” Duck startles a little, quickly taking in the fact that Indrid looks nice . His black sweater looks soft and flattering, accenting his pale skin and hair. His jeans don’t even have mud splattered on them from outside. The only part of his outfit that stands out is his glasses, still big and red as always.

“I know, not my usual attire.” Indrid chuckles and pulls at the hem of his sweater. “I thought pajama pants might not suit a party though.”

“No, no probably not. Jake probably wouldn’t care though, huh? Kid’s pretty relaxed.” Duck steps aside to let Indrid in. “I’m almost ready I just gotta make sure Stinkman has food.”

“...Stinkman?” Indrid’s face twists in amusement and Duck huffs out a laugh, pulling down the bag of cat food to pour into her bowl.

“Yeah, she’s my cat. She doesn’t really like strangers, but hang around long enough and it’ll be hard to get her away from you.”

“You named your cat Stinkman?” Indrid’s lips are pressed tightly together, indicating that he’s moments away from uncontrollable laughter.

“Yeah, you know, I didn’t mean to keep her? I found her when she was just a baby, she was all alone in the forest you know? And I couldn’t just leave her there, it was freezing.” he shrugs and tucks the bag back into its hiding place. “I meant to find someone to take her, so the name was going to be temporary so I wouldn’t get attached, but it just. Never happened I guess.”

“That’s…I have to admit, kind of the cutest thing I’ve ever heard.” Duck flushes and shrugs again, walking back to the door where Indrid waits.

“I guess. Ready?” the pit of anxiety in his stomach twists and tugs, making him feel sick. Indrid reaches out and takes Duck’s hand in his, his thin, cold fingers fitting perfectly in between Duck’s.

“Of course.” He says with a smile. Duck smiles back, a small and pathetic thing, but Indrid thankfully stays quiet, simply walking beside him as they make their way down to the parking lot and to Duck’s truck.

“There’s no need to be so worried.” Indrid says after they pull out into the street and start the drive to the Lodge. “I see almost no futures where our lie gets discovered. In fact, I see quite a few where we manage to convince people who know you that we’ve been married without their knowledge.”

Duck laughs and shakes his head, but feels the anxiety in his stomach lessen its hold on him just a bit.

“Yeah?”

“Mhmm. Jake Coolice is among them.” Indrid’s lip quirks up at that.

“It’s a little mean to trick the birthday boy, huh?”

“A little. Also, be prepared to talk to Stern quite a bit tonight. I think he’s under the impression you two are friends.” Duck scrunches his nose, making a face.

“Ah, hell. Why does he think that?” Indrid just shrugs in response, then reaches over to turn up the radio. Music fills the silence for the rest of the car ride, Indrid nodding his head along with the beat and Duck humming under his breath. Cars fill the driveway outside the Lodge, and Duck smiles.

“This party might get…a little wild, I’m assuming.” he says, earning him a laugh from Indrid.

“A little.” he agrees, hopping out of the car. Duck follows suit, glancing up at the sky momentarily. Dark clouds hang heavy in the sky, and Duck frowns. It looks like snow, but Indrid would tell him if a bad storm was rolling in, right? He puts the worry out of his mind and walks beside Indrid up to the front door. To Duck’s surprise, Indrid reaches over and tangles their fingers together.

“We’re married Duck, no need to act so shocked.” Indrid says, rolling his eyes.

“Right, yeah.” Duck clears his throat and wills himself to stop feeling so flustered. Once inside the Lodge, Duck immediately steps closer to Indrid, the noise level a little too loud for comfort. He chews at his bottom lip, but finds himself settling when the thinner man begins running his thumb back and forth across his skin.

“It’s all right, no need to get anxious. Come on, let’s go find Aubrey.” Indrid leads him through the crowd, easily weaving in between people. Duck catches sight of Aubrey’s shock of brightly colored hair and points Indrid in that direction. Unfortunately, before they make it, Duck finds his wrist caught by someone else, stopping him in his tracks.

“Duck! Hey!” Agent Stern says, an excited smile on his face. “And this must be your husband. Hi, I’m Agent Stern. It’s wonderful to finally meet you.” He holds his hand out to Indrid, who smiles politely and shakes it.

“It’s nice to meet you too, I’m Indrid Newton. Now, do you work for the government?” he asks, sounding impressed. Duck nearly laughs, but somehow manages to hold it in.

“Indeed I do Mr. Newton.” All the oxygen seems to be sucked out of the room as Duck registers that the ‘Mr. Newton’ Stern is referring to is the stupid man standing beside him, who appears completely fucking unaffected.

“Oh, that’s so interesting! What do you do?”

“I’m a part of the UP taskforce, or unexplained phenomena taskforce, for the FBI. I was assigned here after that Bigfoot video Ned Chicane made went viral.” he says with a kind smile.

“Oh, really? They sent you all the way to Kepler just for that phony video old Ned made?” Indrid’s face twists in disappointment. “That’s a shame.”

“Well, it’s my job to determine whether the video is fake or real. We want to be completely sure.” Stern smiles, but Duck sees the frustration behind his eyes. It must be irritating as hell to deal with people telling you your job is ridiculous, or stupid, or dumb all day long.

“Well, I hope you find what you’re looking for Agent. If you would excuse us, we were actually on our way to chat with Aubrey. I’ll see you around.” Duck says with a smile and a wave, before tugging Indrid back into the crowd and towards the Lady Flame.

“That was a quick exit.” Indrid murmurs, his lips centimeters away from Duck’s ear. He suppresses a shiver as his breath ghosts across his skin and shrugs.

“I feel bad for the guy. His whole job is proving that cryptids and aliens and all that are real. He gets so much shit, all the time. Hell, he even gets it from actual cryptids and aliens on a daily basis here at the Lodge. It just…I don’t know, it must really suck. It was making me sad.” Indrid hums, frowning.

“Huh. I never thought about that.”

“Yeah, I mean I know that he’s…you know, dangerous or whatever, but. I don’t know man, it just doesn’t seem fair.” Duck shrugs.

“Duck!” Aubrey exclaims, effectively shutting down his and Indrid’s conversation.

“Hey kiddo.” he grins, ruffling her hair as she throws her arms around him.

“I’m so glad you came, it’s going to be awesome . Jake said he wants me to do a magic show!”

“No real magic, right? That would kinda…defeat the point of all this huh?” Duck asks, gesturing between him and Indrid.

“Oh, no of course not! Don’t be ridiculous. How are you two doing by the way? I mean, you just got here but I already saw you talking to Stern.” her face scrunches up when she says his name, her distaste for the man incredibly obvious.

“We’re doing all right.” Indrid piped up, chuckling. “He seems like a nice enough guy.”

“He’s a fed, Indrid.” Aubrey glares at him. Duck snorts, quickly covering up his mouth as he attempts to hold back his laughter.

“Sorry, it’s just-Aubrey, he’s just a guy. We fight monsters on a regular basis.” He explains when she turns her glare on him.

“Huh.” she says, the glare falling off her face. “I-you know what, I’ve never thought about it like that before. You’re totally right.”

“Of course I am.” Duck laughs as he flinches away from the punch she aims at his shoulder. “When’s your show?”

“Dunno, whenever Jake tells me. I’m ready to do magic at any time.” she says, raising the hand with her glove on it and snapping, setting her palm ablaze for a moment. It would be much cooler if Duck hadn’t seen her hurl entire balls of fire at enemies and pretty much fly on the wind.

“All right, well, be sure to make an entrance. Break a leg.” he says.

“Will do.” she says, saluting him before turning and making her way back to where Dani stands near the edge of the room.

“Is that Barclay?” Indrid asks, eyes widening as he catches sight of the man. He sticks up out of the crowd, much taller than most of the people here, and he waves at Duck when he sees him. His kind smile disappears however when he sees Indrid, mouth falling open a bit. He quickly recovers, his smile returning as he waves at Indrid too.

“Y’all know one another?” Duck asks as they make their way over to the taller man.

“You could say that.” Indrid says, cryptic as always. Duck huffs, but follows along with ease, happy to let Indrid take the lead in their social interactions for the rest of the evening.

“Hey Indrid, haven’t seen you in a while.” Barclay says when they walk up, his voice taking on a softer edge than usual.

“Hello Barclay. I am sorry about that, I really do mean to get over here more often I just…”

“Don’t?” he chuckles. “Don’t worry about it. I’m going to be honest, I wasn’t expecting to see you here this evening. I know Duck concocted a lie about you two being married, but you going along with it is a surprise.”

“Well, it was in my best interest. Plus, who doesn’t love a good party.” Indrid shrugs, and Duck notices that the color of his cheeks seems redder than a few moments ago. Maybe it’s just his glasses. Barclay raises an eyebrow and laughs.

“If I’m remembering correctly, uh, you don’t love a good party. You hated them actually. Said there was too many people and too many futures.”

“People can change, Barclay.” Indrid says, but even Duck knows he’s lying.

“You didn’t tell me that. You didn’t have to come.” he says, brow furrowing. Indrid rolls his eyes and waves away Duck’s concern.

“No, I wanted to come. Barclay’s just being difficult.” the man in question barks out a laugh.

“You haven’t changed at all Indrid.” he says. A loud clatter echoes from the direction of the kitchen, and Barclay winces, glancing back towards it. “I should…“

“Yeah.” Duck laughs. “Good luck Barclay, talk to you later.”

“See you around.” Indrid waves as the man makes his way into the kitchen.

“So…you and Barclay, huh?” Duck says, turning back to Indrid, shit-eating grin spread wide across his face. Indrid lets his head fall into his hands, groaning.

“I hate you. So much.” he says, voice muffled. Duck laughs and throws an arm around Indrid’s shoulders.

“Ah, come on! That’s adorable. And kind of hilarious.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Indrid leans into Duck, his own arm wrapping around his waist. The whole thing feels so natural and easy that Duck doesn’t even register it until a little while later, in the middle of an impassioned conversation with Jake about whether skateboarding or snowboarding is cooler. His mouth suddenly snaps shut and his cheeks flush.

“Yo, dude, are you all right?” Jake asks, waving a hand in front of Duck’s face. He shakes his head and laughs nervously.

“Uh, yeah, sorry, anyways, skateboarding is cooler.” Indrid huffs a laugh, curling closer to him and laying his head on Duck’s shoulder. A short while later, Aubrey stops the discussion in its tracks, bounding up and tackling Jake with a bear hug.

“Jake! Do you want me to do my magic now?” she asks, face lit up with excitement.

“Oh Hell yeah!” he says. “I’ll clear a spot for you, give me a sec.” he disappears into the crowd, and shouts for everyone to clear a space.

“Are you nervous?” Indrid asks Aubrey, lifting his head away from the crook of Duck’s neck (much to his disappointment).

“Nope! I’ve performed in front of all these people before, and besides, I’m a professional , Indrid. Professionals don’t get nervous.” Despite her words, Duck sees the way her fingers fiddle with the rings on her fingers, twisting them and turning them so much that she almost drops them at times.

“Uh huh, sure. Try not to burn the place down.” Duck says, and she sticks her tongue out at him in retaliation.

“I almost never do that.” she says, crossing her arms over her chest.

“Almost,” Indrid says, lips quirking up into a grin. “is not definite.”

“Whatever! I’m gonna do great and you both are gonna feel bad for teasing me after you see how awesome I am.” she says, mock-flipping hair over her shoulders and walking away. Duck rolls his eyes and chuckles.

“Aubrey sure is a character, huh?” he says, looking over at Indrid. His breath catches in his throat, surprised by how close the other is.

“Yeah…“ Indrid says, voice quiet. Duck swallows and laughs nervously, torn between staying where he is and pulling away. Indrid makes the decision for him, surging forward and pressing his lips to the other’s, cold hand coming up to cup the back of Duck’s head. Duck blinks in surprise, but quickly gets with the program, his own hands settling on Indrid’s waist. The kiss lasts only a few moments longer, but when Indrid pulls away he leaves Duck looking absolutely wrecked. His hair stands up where Indrid’s hand slid into it, his mouth hangs open, and his cheeks are splotchy and red.

“Sorry,” Indrid murmurs, smoothing Duck’s hair down and smiling. “Stern was looking over at us.”

And just like that Duck feels himself shut down, his mouth snapping shut and tears threatening to pool in his eyes. He laughs and pulls away, arms dropping to his sides.

“Right, no worries.” he says, rubbing the back of his neck. He pushes back the urge to run his fingers over his lips where they still tingle. Indrid frowns, and opens his mouth as if to say something, but Aubrey’s voice booms across the crowd just in time, silencing his concerns before he gets the chance to voice them.

“Ladies and gentlemen, prepare for a performance you’re sure to remember!” she exclaims, waving her arms around dramatically. Duck’s eyes focus in on the open area where she stands, but he can’t seem to make himself focus, too caught up in trying to calm the hell down. He knew going into this it wouldn’t be easy, but why did Indrid have to kiss him? And so perfectly? God, Duck wishes he had never lied. Maybe he should have just outright told Stern that his friend Indrid is the Mothman. Then at least he wouldn’t be in this wretched situation. Indrid keeps giving him sad eyes, but Duck refuses to acknowledge him, preferring to act completely entranced by Aubrey’s show instead. She finishes up with a trick Duck’s seen her do about a million times, but there seems to be a little bit more fire than usual. He narrows his eyes at her suspiciously and she just winks, then takes her bow.

“Thank you everyone, thank you! I’ll be here all week! Well, really, I live here, so I’m here all the time.” she grins, her joke garnering quite a few chuckles, then bounds back over to Duck and Indrid.

“So, how’d I do?” she asks, grinning wildly and bouncing up and down on her heels.

“You did fantastic as always.” Indrid says.

“Oh, stop it. You’re just saying that to make me feel better. I totally screwed up that second trick.”

“Nobody noticed. You looked awesome kid.” Duck forgets his own miserable existence for a moment in favor of supporting his friend. Her grin grows impossibly wider and she throws her arms around Duck, hugging him tightly.

“Thanks Duck.” she says once she pulls away.

“Of course.”

“Oh, by the way, Barclay made a super awesome cake! He’s gonna bring it out in a minute and we’ll all sing to Jake. That’s kinda gonna be the end of the party, so if you guys wanna get out of here afterwards go ahead.” she explains, and Duck practically feels Indrid sag with relief.

“Thanks for letting us know Aubrey.”

“No problem!” she says, then turns and hurries away, presumably to inform more people about the cake. Duck watches her for a moment before he feels a hand on his shoulder. He turns to find Indrid looking at him with concern etched in the lines of his face.

“Duck, if I did something to make you uncomfortable earlier-”

“Ah, hell, no Indrid it’s all right.” Duck says, quickly waving his worries away. “You didn’t do anything, I’m just being stupid is all.” Duck makes sure to keep his explanation as vague as possible. He doesn’t think he’d be able to lie himself out of this one.

“Are you sure? The last thing I want to do is upset you, Duck.” Indrid continues, and Duck bites down hard on his lip.

“Nah Indrid, don’t worry about it, honest. I just, uh, get anxious about PDA sometimes.” He says. Technically not a lie, but not the whole truth either.

“Oh.” Indrid straightens up a little. “I can refrain from-”

“No!” Duck says, a little too loudly. He winces and tries to cover his own ass. “Ah fuck, I just uh, I mean like, we’re trying to convince people we’re married right?”

“I suppose…“ Indrid looks at him like he’s just grown a second head. “Are you feeling all right Duck?”

“I feel right as rain.” Duck says, smile a little too large to be convincing. Indrid doesn’t look convinced in the slightest, but lets it slide as Barclay enters the room singing “Happy Birthday” at the top of his lungs. The two join in, watching as Jake covers his mouth in surprise. Barclay manages to reach him before the end of the song, and Jake blows all the candles out in one strong breath.

“Thank you all so much.” he says, projecting so that the entire room hears him. “For coming, and for hanging, and for the cake-just thanks for being super chill, all of you.” Aubrey gives him a quick hug, then announces that cake is served. People begin lining up behind Jake, excited for a chance to taste Barclay’s delicious baking.

“Do you want cake?” Duck says, leaning over to talk directly into Indrid’s ear so as to be heard above the sudden roar of conversation.

“No, I’m good. And you don’t want any either, so we can go?” he asks, hope painting his words. Duck chuckles and nods, taking his cold hand in his own and making his way through the crowd to the front door, Indrid close behind him.

Compared to the constant hum of noise inside the Lodge, the cold air outside is silent. Indrid shivers and steps closer to Duck, who wraps an arm around him without even thinking about it. They make it a few steps towards Duck’s truck before Indrid freezes in his tracks, eyes going glassy and unfocused.

“Indrid? Indrid are you all right?” Duck asks, brow furrowing with concern. Only a few moments later he refocuses, but appears shaken.

“We can’t leave. We have to stay here. Possibly overnight. Everyone does.” he says, sentences short and voice shaky.

“What did you see?” Duck asks, hands sliding down from around Indrid’s shoulders to clutch tightly to his clenched fists.

“A car accident. Several. There’s a, a patch of ice, on the road away from the Lodge. Even if we manage to avoid it, someone else won’t, and it results…Duck if anyone leaves tonight, more than one person will die.”

“All right, it’s okay Indrid.” Duck says, squeezing his hands. “I’ll tell everyone that the road conditions are bad and tell them to stay here. I’m sure Mama has enough extra room, right?” Indrid nods wordlessly, still appearing to be lost in his own head.

“Come on buddy, let’s get back inside.” Duck says, straightening up and wrapping his arm around Indrid’s shoulders once more. He leads them back through the door and back into the roar of conversation from before, then immediately scans the crowd for someone he trusts. His eyes fall upon Ned, leaning against the wall a few feet away, a plate of cake in his hands.

“Ned!” He calls out, pushing his way towards him. “Hey, Ned, Indrid’s a little bit out of commission at the moment, he’s uh. Just, can you take care of him for a second? Make sure he doesn’t fall down or freak out or anything?”

“Of course, what happened?” Ned asks, opening his arms and letting Indrid shuffle into them, still acting as though he’s in a trance.

“Uh, he saw a bad future.” Duck says, giving Ned the quick explanation. “And now I’m gonna…well I’m gonna try and keep it from happening.”

“Good luck!” Ned calls after him as he makes his way through the crowd, looking for Barclay, or Aubrey, or anyone that commands more presence that he does. He needs everyone in here’s attention.

“Duck, are you all right?” a voice asks, someone’s hand catching his shoulder and stopping him in his tracks. Duck wheels around to find himself face to face with Agent Stern.

“Uh, yeah, everything’s fine Agent, I just uh, I need to find someone.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Bad weather.” Duck says, then wrenches himself from Stern’s grip, continuing on with his task. He finally stumbles into Barclay a few minutes later, and relief floods through him.

“Hey, can you get everyone’s attention?”

“Yeah, what’s going on?”

“Indrid saw something. There’s a patch of ice on the road that has the potential to be really dangerous. He said that everyone needs to stay here.”

“That’s…wow, okay. Where is he?”

“I left him with Ned for now, he’s okay, we just need to tell everyone before it’s too late.” Duck tries to get Barclay moving faster, and it works. He nods and straightens up.

“Hello, may I have everyone’s attention? Due to unfortunate weather, I have been informed by Forest Ranger Duck Newton that the roads are unsafe for driving. We here at Amnesty Lodge implore you to please not leave here tonight, and we are willing to provide lodging for anyone who does not already live here.” his voice booms across the now-silent crowd. As soon as he finishes speaking, everyone starts talking at once, complaining about having to stay or wondering if it’s really as bad as Barclay says it is.

“Hey!” Duck shouts, throwing everyone into silence once more. “This is serious. The roads are really icy right now, and the snowstorm that’s rolling in will only make things worse. I’m sure things will be relatively cleaned up by tomorrow morning, but for the time being please, just…stay here. The Lodge is really nice, and it’s Jake’s birthday. Really, it won’t be that bad.”

After that, people calm down, and much to Duck’s relief, everyone decides to stay. Barclay and Mama help assign everyone rooms and Duck gets his key from them before returning to Ned and Indrid.

“Hey, how are you doing?” Duck asks, attention going immediately to Indrid, who seems to have calmed down quite a bit.

“I’m doing much better, thank you.” he says, pushing his hair out of his eyes. “I, uh, I’m sorry for freaking out like that.”

“Don’t worry about it Indrid. I get anxiety attacks all the time.” Duck says, shrugging before turning to Ned. “Thanks for helping out, you should probably go see if you can get a room.”

“No problem Duck. See you around.” he says, stepping away and waving to the two of them. Indrid steps forward and hesitantly links hands with Duck, who just smiles and nods before leading him down to their room.

Chapter Text

As soon as Duck makes it behind closed doors his shoulders slump and he lets out a long sigh of relief. 

“Thank God that’s over.” he says, straightening up and running a hand through his hair. Indrid hums and moves to sit down on the bed. His movements are slow and measured, as though he’s still thinking about the future where things didn’t work out so well. 

“Hey, Indrid, uh. Do you need to talk about it, or? I know that must have been pretty…pretty hard to deal with.” Indrid startles a little and his eyes focus on Duck. He shakes his head.

“No, no, sorry. I’m okay, I promise, it’s just that, well. It’s been a long time since I’ve had friends I suppose, and seeing some of them… die, was…it was hard to deal with that again, after so long of, well, not.” he says, hands gripping tightly to the bed, bunching up the comforter. 

“Hey, it’s all right Indrid. There’s no need to apologise for getting upset. I mean, Hell, I think you handled that situation pretty well.” Duck moves to sit down beside Indrid, his own hand covering Indrid’s cold one. The other man nods, but doesn’t look up from the floor.

“Indrid do you-I just, I mean, would you mind if I hugged you? It just feels like I should but if you’re overwhelmed I don’t want-” Duck’s long-winded explanation gets cut short by Indrid’s skinny arms looping around him tightly.

“Oh, I guess it’s okay then.” Duck says, hesitantly putting his own arms around him. He feels him shake with laughter and chuckles. 

“Thank you.” Indrid says a few minutes later as he pulls away. Duck feels a damp spot on his shoulder where his head had been, but doesn’t mention it. 

“Yeah man, of course. I’m always here if you need to talk or, you know, whatever.” he smiles. “Maybe not just this minute though, because I’m gonna go take a shower if that’s all right?” 

“Oh, yes of course.” Indrid waves him away, and Duck nods, heading into the adjoined bathroom. 

 

He emerges a little while later clad in only jeans. His hair drips onto his shoulders, and he shakes it out like a dog to try and get some of the moisture out.

“You know there is…towels, Duck.” Indrid says from his position on the bed. He has a book in his lap that Duck assumes he got from another resident, as this room is fairly barren. 

“I am aware of that Indrid.” he replies, grinning over at him. “This way’s just faster.” 

“I don’t think that it is.” 

“You don’t know.”

“I know that your pillow is going to be soaked .” Duck sticks his tongue out at him and reaches back into the bathroom to grab his shirt, folding it up and setting it on the chair in the corner of the room. He shuffles around a little, stalling before facing the fact that he and Indrid might have to share a bed. It’s fine, he’ll just sleep on the floor. It’ll hurt his back, but he’ll recover. 

“If you don’t mind my asking, how did you get those scars on your chest?” Indrid asks, interrupting his train of thought and freezing Duck in his tracks. His blood turns to ice in his veins as he frantically tries to think of a lie, before he suddenly realizes that Indrid most likely already knows the answer. He laughs self-deprecatingly and crosses his arms over his chest. 

“You already know, right? I mean, even if I don’t tell you in this timeline, I probably do in another one. No matter what you get your answer.” he knows he’s being unfair, and he hears the bitterness in his tone, but he’s just- fuck he’s just so tired of this choice being taken away from him. 

“I-Duck I see how you might come to that conclusion, however I’m not that inconsiderate.” Indrid says, and Duck’s head snaps back up, eyes meeting glasses. “I have the ability to…well, to sort of tune out certain parts of a future. I utilize this ability when I ask what I know are probably personal questions, as I don’t want to intrude on someone’s privacy if they decide not to tell me.” 

“Oh.” Duck flushes and chews on the inside of his lip, unsure how to answer. “I, uh. I’m sorry then, for, uh, for assuming.” 

“I don’t blame you. You were being completely reasonable.” Indrid smiles and closes his book, setting it to the side. 

“I guess, uh, I guess telling you the truth wouldn’t hurt anyway huh? You seem like a pretty cool guy.” Duck stumbles over his words, arms still crossed tightly over his chest, hiding the scars in question. “So, uh, I’m trans? I’m a trans man. So these scars are from my top surgery.” 

“Oh.” Indrid’s eyes widen in surprise. “Huh. Did it hurt?” Duck laughs, arms dropping to his sides. 

“Well, yeah. It’s surgery you know? But it doesn’t hurt anymore, and I’m a lot happier.” 

“I’m happy for you Duck.” Duck huffs a laugh and rubs the back of his neck, smiling. 

“Thanks Indrid. Now, uh, I’m gonna hit the hay. Mind throwing down a pillow?” He begins to lay down on the floor, much to Indrid’s horror. 

“Duck Newton are you kidding me?” Indrid leans over the side of the bed, glaring at him. 

“I-you can have the bed Indrid, I don’t mind.” 

“Get your ass up here, we spent the entire evening hanging off of one another. I think sharing a bed for one night will be fine.” Duck flushes but heeds Indrid’s words, pushing himself to his feet and then laying down as far to the other side of the bed as physically possible. 

“My goodness Duck.” Indrid says, and Duck can practically hear him rolling his eyes. 

“Sorry, I just-sorry.” Duck pulls back the covers and crawls underneath them, soon joined by Indrid. 

“There’s no need to apologize, you’re just being…irrational.” Duck laughs and reaches over to turn out the lamp, plunging the two of them into darkness. 

“I’ve been known to do that at times.” Duck says, making Indrid chuckle, and Duck hears the shifting of sheets before a freezing cold hand takes his own. 

Jesus Indrid, your hand is an icicle. ” he curses, very nearly yanking his hand away. 

“Sorry.” he starts to pull away, but Duck tightens his hold on him. “The Lodge is always…a little bit colder than I would like.”

“Here, come here.” Duck shifts onto his side and reaches out, arms going around his torso and pulling him closer. “I’m basically a human space heater, so.” 

“Thank you.” Duck is pretty sure his face can’t get any more flushed, but then Indrid rests his head on his shoulder and he thinks he’s going to combust. 

“No problem.” Duck’s voice cracks and he wishes for death. After a few minutes of silence, Indrid’s breathing evens out and his hold on Duck’s hand slackens. Unfortunately for Duck, he spends the next hour or so lost in his own head, brain reeling from all the events that unfolded this evening. Does Indrid like him back? Was it all for show? What if he hadn’t been able to stop someone from leaving the Lodge? He sighs and squeezes his eyes shut wishing for sleep to take over. 

“Stop thinking so hard.” Indrid murmurs, stirring slightly. “You’re disrupting my sleep.” 

“How-”

“Shhhh. Just go to sleep Duck.” Duck huffs, but sooner than he expects he finds himself drifting off. 

Chapter Text

Duck wakes up with a start, sweating and panting. His hands shake as he throws away the covers, and he nearly falls as he stumbles to the bathroom. He fumbles with the light switch, cursing as he runs his hand blindly along the wall, missing it quite a few times before he finally manages to flip it. Light floods the room, revealing his wrecked image reflecting back at him in the mirror. 

“Fuck.” he curses, hands running through his hair, the sweaty strands sticking up every which way. “Fuck!” 

“Duck?” he startles at the soft voice, heart nearly stopping in his chest. 

“Jesus Christ, Indrid.” he says, turning to face the man standing in the doorway. 

“Sorry,” he bites his lip, looking Duck over with obvious concern. “Is everything all right?” 

“Yeah, yeah, everything’s good. Just had a, a real shitty dream is all. Sorry for waking

you.” 

“No worries, I don’t sleep very deeply.” Indrid narrows his eyes, the actions barely visible behind his glasses. “Do you want to talk about it?” 

“Not really. God, I’m sorry about all this, you shouldn’t have to deal with my breakdown-”

“Duck, stop.” Indrid grabs Duck’s shoulder. “I don’t mind. I want to help.” 

Duck sucks in a shuddering breath and nods, shoulders relaxing. Indrid’s hand on his shoulder grounds him, makes him feel a bit more here than a moment ago. 

“I…thanks Indrid.” he smiles and covers Indrid’s hand with his own, cheeks warming at the contact. “Do you know what time it is?” 

“Early. Too early to be awake. You should go back to sleep.” Duck scrunches up his nose.

“Nah, I won’t be able to. You should go back to bed though.” 

Duck. ” Indrid glares at him and slides his hand down to Duck’s wrist, dragging him back to the bed. Duck raises his eyebrows, surprised by the small man’s strength. He could still yank his hand out of his grip easily, but he allows himself to be pushed back down onto the bed. 

“I’m telling you, I won’t be able to-”

“Sleep, yes, I know Duck, but just humor me for a moment?” Indrid lays down next to him, arm going around his waist and head landing on Duck’s shoulder. 

“What, you gonna cuddle me to death?” Indrid pinches Duck’s stomach and he squeaks, jerking away. 

“I just-sometimes, when I have particularly bad visions, being held by someone…well, it helps.” Indrid keeps his face carefully hidden from Duck, and all thoughts of escaping his arms flee Duck’s mind. The vulnerability in Indrid’s words knocks the breath out of him, and he can’t help but pull him closer. 

“Oh. Thank you, then. This really does help, I think.” Duck says, hand coming up to play with Indrid’s hair. “It makes me feel…grounded, I guess.” 

Indrid nods and leans his head back, humming. 

“You’re like a cat.” Duck observes, running his hands through his hair again. Indrid rolls his eyes, but doesn’t appear too miffed by the comparison. Duck hums, smiling as he continues to run his hands through his hair, getting a little lost in the motion. That’s why when his fingers get tangled, he barely thinks about it before attempting to tug away, yanking at Indrid’s hair. He realizes his mistake before he even has a chance to pull too hard, but before he can apologize, Indrid moans, and Duck freezes. The two of them sit perfectly still, Duck’s fingers still in Indrid’s hair and Indrid’s face still tucked into Duck’s neck. 

“I… am sorry Duck, I didn’t-uh. I didn’t intend to. You know. Do that.” Indrid finally says, shuffling around, allowing Duck’s hand to fall out of his hair as he sits up and puts a few inches between them. 

“Nah, don’t, don’t worry about it Indrid.” Duck rubs the back of his neck sheepishly, avoiding eye contact. “It was my fault really.”

Indrid shakes his head, twisting his hands in his lap. The silence is long, neither of them wanting to be the one to break it. What do you even say after something like this? 

“Uh, I think I’m gonna go see if anyone’s awake.” Duck says after a while, getting to his feet. He grabs his shirt and looks over his shoulder to see Indrid nodding, almost as though he’s become lost in his own world. 

“I’ll be right back, okay?” Indrid seems to snap out of it for a second, and waves, a small smile making its way onto his face. Duck nods, and steps out the door into the dark hallway. As 

soon as the door shuts behind him, he practically sprints down the hall, needing to put as much distance between him and Indrid as possible, as soon as possible. He finds himself in the kitchen a few minutes later, leaning against the counter and breathing heavily, eyes squeezed shut as he tries to work through everything that happened. 

“Duck?” he jumps, nearly knocking his head against the cabinets. 

“Jesus, Barclay, you nearly gave me a heart attack.” he says, holding his hand over his

chest.  

“I’m sorry, are you alright?” Barclay steps fully into the kitchen, beginning to putter around making the beginnings of breakfast. 

“Yeah, yeah, I’m alright.” Duck doesn’t even believe himself, so the look Barclay gives him of complete disbelief isn’t much of a surprise. He sighs and runs his hand through his hair, the strands sticking up every which way. 

“Okay, maybe I’m not so alright. It’s nothing serious though, I just-” he bites down hard on his lip, wondering if he should talk to Barclay about this. 

“Just?” Barclay asks, looking over his shoulder as he stirs up some pancake batter. 

“Ah hell Barclay, it’s just that Indrid’s so-he’s so fuckin’ cute. And funny. And kind. And I hate it, because I don’t know what to do with all that, you know?”  Barclay hums and nods.
“Believe me, I know. I, uh, I mean I don’t know if he told you, but we used to be-well, we used to date. Long time ago really, but, yeah. I know what you mean.” He smiles over his shoulder before cracking an egg into the pan. 

“Yeah, he mentioned something like that. I kinda-well, I kinda figured, after y’all’s talk last night.” Barclay nods, and Duck tastefully ignores the blush he can see creeping across his cheeks. “I don’t know, I don’t wanna mess anything up. He’s been so helpful, and I mean-I like to think that we’ve actually become sort of-I don’t know, friends?” Duck sighs and lets his head fall into his hands.

“I think you should just tell him how you feel.” Barclay says. For a moment, there’s only the sound of eggs cooking on the stove, and the soft thuds of other people waking up throughout the lodge.

“You’re joking, right?” Duck raises an eyebrow, and Barclay laughs.

“No, Duck, I’m not. Look, I’ve known Indrid for a long time now, and I know what it looks like when he’s completely gone on someone. I’ve seen it aimed at me in the past. Trust me when I say that that man? He won’t turn you down.” 

“Well, fuck. I can’t argue with that, huh?” Duck laughs and rubs the back of his neck, avoiding Barclay’s eyes. 

“I’m not saying you have to do anything about it today, or tomorrow, or even this week. Just-don’t leave him waiting, Duck.” Barclay smiles, then waves towards the door. “Now, get out of my kitchen. I don’t want your angst messing up my breakfast. I have about a million people to feed.” 

Duck laughs, but takes his leave, stepping through the door and into the lobby of Amnesty Lodge. The first rays of sunlight shine through the curtains onto the carpet and couches, and several people sit around, drinking coffee, reading, or talking quietly amongst themselves. Among them, Duck spots Agent Stern, already up and working. He once again has a disorganized mess of papers surrounding him, and doesn’t notice Duck until the man sits down right across from him. 

“Oh, Duck! Good morning.” He looks up from his papers and smiles. “I hope you slept well?”

“Yeah, I had a great night’s sleep. Good mornin’ to you too. Whatcha workin’ on?” he nods to the papers spread out around him. Sure, he has an ulterior motive-he needs to watch his friend’s backs after all-but he also is just genuinely curious about what Agent Stern’s work entails.
“Oh, Duck, I’m not allowed to disclose that information I’m afraid.” he smiles apologetically and shuffles some of the papers around in an attempt at organizing them. 

“Ah, right, of course. My bad then.” Duck smiles and leans back in his chair. 

“Where’s Indrid?” The question startles him, though he supposes he should have expected it. 

“Still sleeping. I’m a terrible sleeper, I always go to bed too late and wake up too early.” Duck laughs and runs a hand through his hair. Stern smiles and nods.

“I get that. I’m the same way-I can never stop thinking about work for long enough.” the way he says it makes it sound like he has something to prove. For the first time, Duck wonders if maybe Stern really isn’t against them-maybe he just wants respect. Duck can relate to that more than he’d like to admit. 

“Yeah. Anyways, it was nice talkin’ to you. I’m gonna go and check on Indrid. I’ll see you around?” 

“Yeah, see you around.” Stern waves, eyes never leaving the papers in front of him, and Duck gets to his feet. He makes his way back through the halls to their room, but hesitates outside the door, hand hovering over the doorknob. Should he tell Indrid? No. Not yet. Not now, he isn’t-he isn’t ready. He takes a deep breath and pushes open the door to find the man straightening the comforter on the now-made bed. 

“Hey,” he says, rubbing the back of his neck and shutting the door behind him. “Barclay’s making breakfast.” 

“Oh, good. Barclay’s cooking is my favorite.” So it seems Indrid’s going the route of pretending nothing happened. That’s good, Duck can play along with that. 

“Yeah, same. Well, except for my sister’s cooking.” he laughs and grabs his jacket off the back of the chair where he left it the night before. “You have the key?” 

“Yes, it’s right here.” Indrid held it aloft, then tossed it Duck’s way. He caught it easily and shoved it into his pocket. 

“All right. Got everything?” 

“Yep.” Indrid smiled and adjusted his glasses. “I’m starving though.” 

“Well, Barclay can definitely fix that.” Duck smiled back and held the door open for him. They made their way back to the lobby, and just before they stepped out of the hallway Indrid’s hand found his. His heart skipped a beat and he forcefully reminded himself that this was all for show. Stern was on the couch just a few feet away from them, he needed to remain calm.  Barclay throws open the kitchen door and the smell of breakfast wafts out, making Duck’s stomach growl. He hadn’t realized how hungry he was until right this second.

“Breakfast is ready, for anyone who wants it.” Barclay called out, wiping his hands on the apron tied around his waist.

“Looks like we’re right on time.” Indrid grinned, pointed teeth glinting in the light, and tugged Duck through the kitchen door. Soon enough, he had a plate piled high with pancakes, and a frankly ridiculous amount of syrup slowly seeping through the stack.

“Geez Indrid, you got enough syrup on there?” Duck asks, raising an eyebrow as they take their seat on one of the couches-actually, now that he’s thinking about it, it’s the very same couch he was sitting when this whole debacle began. He was sitting on this exact cushion when he stuttered out the lie that he and Indrid are married. 

“As a matter of fact, it is.” Indrid replies, almost like it’s a challenge. Duck laughs and shakes his head. 

“One of these days all that sugar you eat is gonna catch up with you.”

“I sincerely doubt that.” Indrid grins, and digs into his syrup-drowned pancakes. They eat the rest of their breakfast in silence, and when they’re finished Duck takes their plates to the kitchen to wash them. 

“Hey, that’s not your job,” Barclay teases, sidling up next to him at the sink and taking  the dirty dishes from his hands. 

“Sorry, I was tryin’ to help.” Duck laughs, backing away. 

“No problem. You think about what I said?” 

“I did. And I will-tell him that is. I just. I don’t know Barclay, what if you’re wrong? What if he doesn’t actually like me and I make a fool of myself? What if he leaves and-”

“Duck.” Barclay cuts him off, turning around to face him. “That man out there looks at you like you hung the moon and all the stars. I’m positive there’s not a single universe out there where you two don’t feel the same way about one another. You can ask him about it, he’ll know.”

Duck swallows back all the worries still swirling around in his stomach, and nods.

“Yeah. Yeah, okay. Thanks again Barclay. It really means a lot.” He forces a smile and waves as he walks out of the kitchen. He’s ready to go home now, but much to his dismay he finds Indrid caught in a conversation with Agent Stern. 

“So Mr. Newton, what do you do for a living?” Stern asks just as Duck walks up. Panic rises up in his throat like bile as he realizes that Indrid doesn’t have a job; he just sits in his camper, not paying for his spot, and draws! The closest thing that even resembles a job is his assistance in the Pineguard’s last abomination. 

“I tend to bounce around from job to job-I would be considered unemployed right now, though really I’m just spending a little time off to focus on my real passion. I’m an artist, you see.” Indrid says, the lie (is it a lie though? Maybe he’s telling the truth) rolls easily off his tongue. Duck breathes a sigh of relief and loops his arm around the smaller man’s waist.

“Hey, you about ready to head out? The roads should be cleared off by now.”

“Oh, hello Duck. I was just telling Agent Stern about my art, but yes, I do believe the roads will be clear.” He smiles up at him, and Duck feels him lean a little closer. He feels like he has a hundred butterflies in his stomach, but he muscles through it and smiles at Stern.

“It was lovely to meet you, Agent.” Indrid grins. “I hope to see you again soon.” 

“Likewise, Indrid.” Stern waves and turns away to find someone else to pester, leaving Duck and Indrid free to go. They make their way out of the Lodge and much to Duck’s relief, actually make it all the way to the truck this time. No nasty visions in sight. 

“The roads safe?” he asks, buckling his seatbelt and turning on the car. It’ll be a moment before the heat gets going, so without really thinking about it he shrugs off his jacket and hands it to Indrid. The man’s been outside for 3 minutes and he looks like he’s about to drop dead of hypothermia. 

“Thank you Duck, and yes. The roads are all safe. The sun melted most of the ice, and what was left was quickly done away with by the snowplows.” 

“Fantastic. Let’s get you home then, huh?”

The ride to the Winnebago is passed mostly in silence, with occasional interruptions from the radio in Duck’s truck-different rangers in the park asking for assistance or reporting areas of the park which need to be closed off to visitors due to the snowfall. When he pulls into the camping area, the Winnebago sits there sadly, snow dripping from the roof and dangerously long icicles hanging from the edge. 

“Here we are.” Duck says, rather unnecessarily. Indrid hums noncommittally and tugs Duck’s jacket closer around him. 

“Thank you, Duck.” he says after a few moments of silence. “I know the circumstances around last night were not exactly...desirable, and I appreciate that you were willing to go through all that for me. It was...very thoughtful of you.” he smiles and opens the car door. “I’ll see you around.”

And with that, Indrid shuts the door and walks towards the Winnebago, not leaving a free moment for Duck to tell him that no, it wasn’t a hardship at all. Not giving him a chance to tell him much of anything. With a sigh and a pit in his stomach, he pulls out of the camping lot and heads home. It’s not until later that evening that he realizes Indrid still has his jacket.